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Saint Mary’s Clinical Head given prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award

Professor Dian Donnai, Clinical Head of Saint Mary’s Hospital and Consultant in Genetics, is the 2010 recipient of the March of Dimes/Colonel Harland Sanders Award for lifetime achievement in the field of genetic sciences. The March of Dimes/Colonel Harland Sanders Award for Lifetime Achievement in the field of genetic sciences is given annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the genetic sciences. Dian Donnai, a professor of medical genetics at the University of Manchester and the current President of the European Society for Human Genetics, is known for her research on rare genetic diseases, such as Williams syndrome, in which individuals have heart defects and cognitive disabilities. “We are proud to recognise Professor Donnai’s research career and her commitment to making genetic services and counselling available to all,” said Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs at the March of Dimes. “Not only has her work helped improve the lives of those affected by rare genetic diseases, but it also has benefited millions of others seeking information and support.” Dr. Katz presented the award to Professor Donnai at the Annual Clinical Genetics Meeting of the American College of Medical Genetics, held at the Albuquerque Convention Centre in New Mexico, America. Back in Manchester, and with time to reflect on receiving such a prestigious award, Professor Donnai said: “I am very honoured to have been recognised in this way since the award has previously been given to very eminent clinicians and scientists such as the leader of the Human Genome project and only once has been awarded to someone outside North America. The March of Dimes supports research and services for families with genetic disorders particularly birth defects and plays an influential role with international bodies such as the World Health Organisation.” She continued: “My main research is in identifying the underlying causes of syndromes associated with congenital abnormalities and mental retardation. At the moment, supported by a charitable fund set up by some parents, we are studying a condition called Kabuki syndrome. At the meeting where the March of Dimes award ceremony took place, it became clear that a group in Seattle was making significant progress in identifying the cause and we have now joined forces with them and hope that this will lead to major publications in this field and the establishment of genetic testing in CMFT for UK patients.” “I am also very committed to the integration of new genetic techniques and treatments in medicine and through Nowgen, now part of the BRC, we have active programmes to engage patients and the public in topical genetic issues, to organize schools visits to CMFT to learn about genetics and take part in workshops, and to train healthcare and scientific professionals in the application of new technologies and knowledge.”